Cannibal Fat Camp, by Mark Scioneaux and David Hayes

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A review by Terri Kinckner

17 year old Miles had a problem. A huge problem. He was morbidly overweight and could not control his eating. After getting in trouble AGAIN for stealing his classmates’ lunches, he had a choice: go to Camp TumTum and get his eating problem under control, or face expulsion. Feeling a bit hopeless, he agreed to see the doctor to be recommended for the camp. After meeting the once obese but now athletic and perfect counselor, he was looking forward to going to the posh resort-like camp hidden away on a secluded tropical island. On his second day at camp, he and the other campers found themselves alone when all of the counselors died from drinking poisoned protein shakes. In a panic, the campers stress ate all of the camp’s food, leaving them to find a way to survive until they were rescued. Some campers had other plans.

I loved this book and flew through it quickly. The characters were great! It was interesting to delve into the psyche of Miles. I wanted him to succeed! Charles was by far the most twisted character I’ve read in a while. Jenny was kind and smart, the perfect person to save these kids, but the right thing doesn’t always happen. I loved learning parts of the experience from journal entries and letters home.

The writing was excellent. The transition between journal entries and regular text was seamless. The doctor’s report was hilariously offensive and made me wonder what doctors REALLY put in reports of these types! The adult characters in this book were as unique and the children, making the entire story flow nicely. This book has two authors, and I couldn’t tell where one left off and the other began. I love that!

The violence and gore. Oh yes, this book has that in abundance! A veritable buffet of insanity, guts, blood and sex! Those scenes were very descriptive and lived through the horror with these kids, albeit with an adult thought process (which included me adding a lot of WTF’s and OMG’s out loud. My only gripe with this book, and it’s really not a big one, was that I didn’t get to “see” the final battle play out. I think that scene would have been better if it wasn’t done as a newspaper article, although the article was quite interesting.

The ending. Oh my! I didn’t see that coming! I closed that book…er shut off my kindle… with a grin. I can see no more perfect ending than that! All in all, AMAZING book!

I give this book a big fat 5 out of 5 stars!

Beer Run of the Dead (Book 1) by D.F. Noble

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A review by Terri Kinckner

Book description from Amazon: An epic drunk romp through the wasteland of a zombie apocalypse, Beer Run of the Dead is the first book in a series sure to wet your whistle. Follow Kip, Rock and Steady, as they struggle to survive and stay completely shit faced in the face of certain undead doom. These three unlikely heroes hold the key to humanity’s salvation, but will they succeed being inebriated as they are? Not everyone who saves the world is a rocket scientist, a super hero, or a handsome actor turned politician. Sometimes people who save the world… they’re fucking idiots.

My take:

I first saw this book in a giveaway contest and was intrigued. I didn’t win but I bought it anyway. I’m so glad that I did! This story is an excellent combination!

Kip is an awkward teenager with a cougar mother who believes her drug-using gym addict boy toy can help make him a man. Passed out and stoned for the first time, Kip wakes up to find out that his entire world has changed and that he’s alone. A satellite has crashed and brought with it a virus that is turning everyone into zombies. Kip finds out later why he was spared when he finds Rock and Steady.

Rock and Steady have lived their lives in an eternal party state. They never grew up, just drink, smoke and go to concerts. This is usually not the best lifestyle choice for adults to keep, but it is the best possible way to stay alive in this apocalypse! They are holed up on the roof of a sporting goods store when Kip stumbles upon them. With Kip as the brains of the operation, they not only survive, but manage to rescue others. They even find the “cure” for the virus, all while still managing to have a great time.

Hilarity is a word I would use to describe this book. I know people like Rock and Steady. In fact, I used to BE Rock and Steady! I genuinely liked the characters, and loved watching Kip make progress in his journey to manhood. The banter between the characters had me laughing out loud constantly. I must say that I read this book in one sitting and eleven beers, and enjoyed every minute of it! There was one point in this book when they were in a boat and I was about to take some man cards away, but they redeemed themselves quite quickly, and had me laughing again (before those tears that had started welling in my eyes could fall). The rescued characters were an absolutely wonderful addition to the cast of main characters. So many different kinds of personalities combined to make this rag tag group of friends work. The girls had me laughing. I’d be a mess if I was stuck in a zombie apocalypse without razors and makeup, too!

I absolutely loved the way the zombies were killed. There were so many creative “games” that they came up with; both to keep their base safe, and to stave off the boredom. Some of those games had me laughing and wishing that I could have been there to give it a try! Their creative use of “bait” also had me laughing (an evil laugh this time). The apocalyptic world they were thrown into was made very real to me. The sounds, smells, sights, were all related so perfectly. I read this book weeks ago, and I still think about it. The ending of this book was epic! Seriously! I will not ruin the surprise by mentioning any details, but D.F. Noble, I bow my head to you… I am not worthy!

If you’re looking for a fun book that is so good it reads like a novella, this is it!

 

Texas Jack, by Bart Hopkins

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A review by Terri Kinckner

I was given this book by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.  When Bart gave me the book, he cautioned me that this might not be my kind of book.  Honestly?  This was exactly the kind of book I needed!  From the very first page, this story grabbed my interest and my heart and didn’t let go.  In fact, I read this book in one sitting over a weekend.

The story starts out with Jack as a young boy in the 80’s being the lookout for his father on a back road in Texas while his father Billy, relieved himself.  Holding a beer and smoking a cigarette, this scene sets the story of Jack’s childhood.  Each chapter jumps back and forth through time, the younger Jack enjoying his childhood and normalizing his alcoholic father’s lifestyle.  The older Jack is a more self-reflective person, looking back on these times with a mixture of joy and sadness.  In high school and college, Jack was on a path to be just like his father, but was saved at a Nirvana concert by Samantha, the woman he would later call his wife and the mother of their wonderful son, Jake.

Jack and Samantha had a wonderful marriage and an incredible little boy.  He had a good job, nice house, and everything he could ask for.  On a trip to visit his parents, however, his world turned on end.  This is truly a story of addiction, love, family, miracles and finally, redemption.  I don’t really want to go into detail with what happened that caused this chain of events, but I will say that it was extremely vivid in my mind as I read.  Actually, I completely forgot I was reading at all!  I was wrapped up in the story and characters as if they were my own family.  I laughed, cried, was horrified, and felt the release of decades of hurt and hostility that were always just bubbling under the surface.  That last part goes for the book AND my own life!

This book hit really close to home for me.  I am the child of an alcoholic and I struggled to become the person I am today.  I’ve never been brave enough to open up and outwardly discuss my feelings with that parent.  This book made me want to!  So many stories centering around addiction have sad endings.  This story ends up being more about love and family than anything.

The characters in this book were wonderful!  Billy himself was a hilarious harmless sort (for the most part) and Jack’s mother was a strong, caring woman who managed to raise two very well-adjusted children.  Jack was an excellent husband, father and employee, and an all-around great guy.  His wife, Samantha was the perfect compliment to him… they were such a strong, committed couple!  Jack’s sister, Katie was positive and helped center the family when tragedy struck.  Jake was a wonderful, smart and happy child.  Even Scott, Jack’s best friend, was part of the family.  Every time the family said “Team Leonard”,he’d chime in with “And, Scott”,  I’d laugh out loud.  The support this not so perfect family had for each other was definitely abundant!

I recommend this book to anyone who needs a reason to smile.  Whether you already have the perfect life and family, or are struggling and facing hard times, this book will hit you right where it counts and make you love the people around you (no matter how imperfect) just that much more.

I give this book 5 Texas stars out of five!

Paranormal Anthology with a TWIST Compiled and Edited By Cynthia Shepp and Rene Folsom. Stories By Bart Hopkins, Michael Loring, Rene Folsom, Penelope Bartotto, Eaton Thomas Palmer, Jason Brant, Magen McMinimy, Anthony Lance, Nicki Scalise, S. L. Dearing, Jon Messenger

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A review by:  Terri Kinckner

Anthology description from Amazon:  What began as an idea soon set into motion a chain of events that would lead to heart-stopping action, amazing suspense, and stories that will stick with you way after you are done.

Unique, unexpected, beyond imagining…shocking TWISTS that will have you frantically turning back the pages to see what clues you overlooked to have missed what was coming.

Paranormal stories that span across the genre and will wow you, shock you, and leave you gasping for more.

11 different authors, one main idea, and worlds that will TWIST your imagination…

Voices of the Soul (Soul Seers One) by Rene Folsom

Orella (Ella) heard voices in her head, actually the thoughts of others, as long as she could remember.  She and her mother were in a terrible car accident shortly before her 14th birthday.  After Ella awoke in the hospital following the accident, she was brought to see her mother who was being kept alive on life support.  Her mother talked to her in her head, explaining the gift that she had and that she was a soul seer.  Her mother had this gift too.  She passed away shortly after telling Ella this.  Six years later, Ella was in college and a new student entered her class.  She and Jonah had an instant connection, and she learned that he was also a soul seer.  He helped her to understand her gift a bit more, and they explored the boundaries of what their gift could do.

The twist at the end of this story left me absolutely stunned and desperate to find out what happened next!  This story was gut-wrenching and sweet, exciting and really left an impact on me.  I can’t wait for the next one!

Number 18 by Michael Loring

Robert was a predator, carefully watching his chosen victim waiting for the perfect time to attack.  He was exact and precise as he stalked victim number 18, a petite brunette named Alexa, who was at a carnival with her boyfriend, Daniel.  He watched them as they argued about what stuffed animal to pick, and then knew he had his opportunity when Daniel headed back to the campsite, Alexa planning to meet up with him after using the ladies room.  The incredible detail mapped Robert’s sick mind and I felt like I was right there with them in the woods as he stalked her.  I literally held my breath, waiting for him to finish his horrific task.

The twist in this story was excellently written and detailed.  It was brutal, fierce, and perfectly ironic!  I couldn’t help but smile a little bit at the end of this one… sometimes you get what you deserve!  LOVED it!

Sweet Lenora, by Bart Hopkins

This story was set in the 1930’s about a girl, Lenora, who came from old money.  Always the dutiful daughter, she always listened to her ill bedridden mother. It seemed a lonely existence for Lenora.  The only people in her life were her mother who needed a lot of rest, and the servants who saw to her needs, but kept an emotional distance.  I was truly happy for Lenora when she met a boy named Charlie at school.  They wanted to spend more time together, but Lenora’s mother was not pleased with this new acquaintance, because he came from new money and wasn’t of the same social standing as her family.  Her mother arranged for Lenora to be escorted to the fair by Jakob Schmidt, a young man her mother deemed more acceptable, as he was from old money.  Lenora was miserable at the fair, and Charlie was pleased to see this as he hid in the shadows and watched.  At the end of the evening, Jakob became violent with Lenora and Charlie stepped in, striking Jakob with a rock and seeing Lenora safely home.

The twist in this particular story made her bizarre home life make absolute sense to me.  It was horrifying and awesome!

Truth or Dare, by Jon Messenger

This is a tale of four college kids having a few drinks and playing a game of truth or dare.  The loser would have to write the philosophy final for the winner.  Brent, Whitney, and Jake all took their turns;  the final truth or dare came to Jill,  Jake’s girlfriend.  She chose dare, and the dare was to spend the night in Creepy Cemetery;  a long-neglected cemetery near their campus.  Once at the cemetery, Jill heard whispers and saw ghostly apparitions but the real shock happens when…

The twist.  Not revealing it, though it surprised me and reminded me of a very important lesson at the same time.  A truly excellent story that really made me think!

Suburban Zombie, by Anthony Lance

Neighbors Ted, Dave and their respective families are zombies.  They live in a picture-perfect neighborhood in zombie suburbia.  As the mothers in the neighborhood drop their children off at school and discuss crumbed brains among themselves, they don’t realize they are being followed.  The neighborhood is being invaded by…

The twist in this story is very ironic and hilarious.  I loved the banter between the characters, and laughed out loud quite a few times while reading it.  I will never think of zombies the same way after reading this!

All I Want for Christmas, by Jason Brant

This is the story from a girl’s point of view, done exclusively in diary entries.  Thinking back to myself at thirteen, these entries are pretty accurate for a girl of that age.  She has a serious crush on Stevie and her parents won’t let her date yet.  Each entry is early-teen angst toward her parents and classmates at its finest!  Christmas was something she certainly wasn’t looking forward to, since Stevie was all she wanted…until she opened her gift.

The twist in this story came out of nowhere and I truly never saw it coming.  It was delicious!!!

In the Eyes of the Beholder, by Penelope Bartotto

In this short story, Dominic was a truck driver who had to spend weeks at a time away from the girl he loved, Rose.  He missed her terribly and planned on asking her to marry him when he got back home.  Rose, however, didn’t feel the same about Dominic.  She felt that men had only one purpose in the universe- to provide women with what they need, want, and desire.  Rose was not who Dominic thought she was.  She was planning to get ahead, using a rich man that she was seeing, Kevin, to her advantage.  Dominic was getting in the way of her plans, so she had to do something.  Luckily for Rose, she had everything she needed at her disposal.  She feigned an attack and had Dominic rush home to her, not even stopping to make his delivery first.  She drugged him and took him to a warehouse, where she planned to drain him of his life so she could be free to take advantage of Kevin.

The twist was eerie!  I loved this story, it played like a horror movie in my head.  I’m sure the secondary characters at the diner knew more than they let on, but that just added to the creepy factor to this story… well done!

Little Tchotchkes, by Nicki Scalise

This is the story of a vampire named Marcus who cased goth clubs for his next meal.  The girls were always willing to take him home, where he’d seduce them and then make them his meal.  He always took a trophy from each victim, keeping it in his apartment.  Bored with goth girls, an opportunity for a challenge presented itself when he paid for coffee for a girl who misplaced her wallet.  She showed up at his apartment with a coffee for him later that evening and made herself at home.  He befriended this woman, named Jules,  for a while waiting for his opportunity to get her to take him home with her.  He never fed at home. That chance never happened.

The twist in this one?  Wow!  Double wow!  Depravity is the word of the day with this story!  Absolutely brilliant ending!

I am Serna, by Magen McMinimy

I love witch stories, and this was no exception.  A white witch was trying to save her niece, Ariel, from the Serna the Witch Queen.  Ariel was already powerful, and the Witch Queen was worried that her powers might soon surpass her own.  Ariel’s niece hired Damon, a warlock and protector of the magical community to keep Ariel safe.  She was hiding in a town named Sebastopol, working in a small biker bar.  Damon flashed (teleported) himself to the little town and entered the bar, meeting Ariel.  Ariel knew who he was immediately, and accused him of leading Serna to her when hellhounds attacked them in the parking lot.  Luckily, Damon killed as many as he could and flashed Ariel to the hotel room he was staying in while in town.  After guarding Ariel for a little while, he became attracted to her and wanted to get to know her better.  He flashed her to his home and…

This twist caught me by surprise!  I loved the ending to this, and actually re-read it to see if I had missed a clue as to what would happen!

Bloodlines, by S.L. Dearing

This story took place in WWII era Germany.  A general was searching for two children, Sascha and Eduard Engel.  They found their mother, but she had carefully hidden them under the floorboards.  They had been forced to witness the interrogation and removal of their mother through the wood slats.  All they had left of her was an oval, bronze pendant.  A kind neighbor rescued them and sent them off to France to stay with a man named Patrice.  Patrice was a wonderful man, and the children were delighted to find out that he was their grandfather and that their mother was his daughter.  They shared a special gift, they could hear each other’s thoughts.  The general soon located the family, and went to the house.  This is when the twist happens.

This twist was scary, amazing and finally beautiful!  This story left me grinning and happy.  It would have made a fine full-length novel, too!

Metronome, by Eaton Thomas Palmer

This short story took place in a psychiatric wing of a maximum security prison.  Matthew, a serial killer, is a patient that Dr. Edgar Collins is determined to rehabilitate.  His nurse, Erin, isn’t quite as optimistic.  Matthew saw himself as a spider, preying on the evil and foul people in the world.  He made a dagger in the shape of a spider’s fang, and dipped the end in poison, so that when he killed his victim, it resembled the demise of a spider’s prey.  While in therapy, Matthew was confident and smug, in control of himself and quite able to strike fear into the heart of Erin.  In  his cell, however, he became the prey.  The clock just outside his cell tormented him endlessly, telling him to listen to him and not cry out.  If he didn’t follow the clock’s instructions the clock would stop, ending Matthew’s life.  The doctor was quite irritated by Matthew’s belief that the stopping of the clock would cause him to die, so he ordered a guard to cut power to the clock.  He told Matthew that he deserved a day out of his cell, and that he could spend it in the lounge.  This excited Matthew, and he stepped out into the hallway, instantly noticing that the clock had stopped.

The twist in this story was excellent!  The horror inflicted on Matthew may have matched the horror Matthew inflicted upon his victims.  This was a beautifully-crafted psychological nightmare!

I also want to point out that Cynthia Shepp has been absolutely amazing, not only in getting established authors to think outside the box and submit a short story, but also to readers who aspire to write.  Hers is truly a labor of love, and these anthologies have allowed many readers to live their dream of seeing their work in print.  Cynthia, you are awesome!

As a whole, I give this anthology a resounding 5 stars out of five!

Aces High, by Elle Casey and Jason Brant

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A review by Terri Kinckner

I consider myself insanely lucky to have gotten this book to read as a beta. I’ve been a big fan of both Elle Casey and Jason Brant for a while now, and LOVE interacting with them as they insult one another on Facebook. That being said, when it comes to beta reads, I’m tough, impersonal, and fair.

This story had me hooked by the very first paragraph. One can not simply walk away and leave this book to read more later. This is a one sitting, marathon, fly by the seat of your pants ride! Being so familiar with both writer’s styles, I could tell who wrote what parts, but they meshed so perfectly. This book is a work of art!

Charlie has been in foster home after foster home her entire life. Now, at 18, she is on her own and has the street smarts to survive. Normal rules don’t apply to Charlie. She is bold, smart, funny, and has the quickest wit of any of Elle’s characters to date (that is saying a lot!) She gets by beating old men in poker in the basement of a Chinese restaurant. When she catches her across the hall neighbor, Douglas, peeking into her keyhole, Charlie does what she does best. A shock and awe type confrontation ending in a meal of eggs and an unlikely partnership. (Huh? Yeah, I know, but it makes sense once you read it, I swear!)

Douglas is a recently expelled college student. He was expelled for hacking into his teacher’s computer for all the right reasons. He wasn’t ready to tell his mother and decided to spend some time living in his deceased author father’s apartment, living off of his father’s royalties until he could work up the nerve to tell her. Too late. She found out, wiped out his accounts and evicted him, literally leaving him homeless and broke. His only hope to make enough money was partnering with Charlie to catch fugitives and collect the reward money. With him as the brain, and her as the brawn, what could possibly go wrong? Jason Brant wrote this character incredibly well. Douglas is insanely smart, awkward, germaphobic, and exactly just enough wit to compete with Elle Casey’s Charlie. A perfect match! The evolution of their partnership into friendship, and the trust that it required was really heartwarming.

The story itself is flawless, the characters so real that I completely forgot I was reading a book. That is what seals it for me, I HAVE to be emotionally involved enough in the story that I forget that I’m turning pages and reading words. This book did this for me! I laughed out loud (not recommended for reading in a place where hysterical bouts of laughter are not acceptable), I shook my head at the decisions these youngsters were making, cheered them on, and when I got to the supernatural twist, I was floored. This is something I’ve never read about, but always wondered about. I won’t divulge more information, you’ll have to get the book and find out yourself! I also learned a whole plethora of new insults that I’ve already tried on my co-workers. You can never go wrong with Casey/Brant insults!

If it were possible to give more than five stars, I’d give…like…elevendy seven! I am so looking forward to the next book in this series. (YAY! It’s not going to end!!!)

I give this book 5 stars out of 5 (a royal flush, of course!)